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Why is Europe powerless to do anything?

On May 18, Russia will play host to the Russia-EU summit in the Samara Region. The main news is expected from Poland, which has not lifted its veto on the EU-Russia talks on a new agreement on partnership and cooperation.

Lithuania has also declared that it may veto the talks because of Russia’s failure to supply oil to the Baltic’s only refinery since June 2006. On the eve of the summit, the European Parliament passed a resolution urging Russia and the European Union to make human rights a fundamental principle of their relations. The Russian press has received information to the effect that the summit will discuss Estonia’s actions, notably, the transfer of a monument to Soviet soldiers. Russia is supposed to be to “blame,” but not repenting.

The current Russia-EU relations boil down to the two key moments. First, the East European countries are confidently setting the tune in talking to Russia and most of them are infected with the Russophobia virus, as the president’s special envoy to the EU, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, put it. Second, there is no united foreign policy as regards Russia, and for this reason instead of conducting constructive dialogue, Brussels, Strasbourg and national capitals are engaged in boring moralizing and keep reprimanding Russia.

Russia’s relations with EU countries have been often marred by disputable issues but not once has any major EU nation raised them at a summit, although Moscow’s ban on imports of Dutch flowers to Russia for phyto-sanitary reasons or Alexander Litvinenko’s mysterious death in London last fall could have well been used for staging a row. The attitude of East European countries is totally different - Poland and the Baltic nations do not have West Europe’s diplomatic potential and do not want a compromise with Russia.

Moreover, they have been deliberately trying to hurt it by exploiting its only doubtless element of national identity - the victory over Nazism. Why was Brussels silent when Poland shut down the Russian display at Auschwitz? Why did Estonia decide to move the Bronze Soldier on the very eve of the 62nd VE anniversary and not after the commemoration day? In the meantime, the European Commission and ministers are ignoring the really serious reasons to delay the start of the talks - there are problems with political rights and the opposition and Russia’s refusal to reform its penitentiary system.

Instead, “concerns” are being voiced by European parliamentarians, who mix the ABM issue with human rights, the Bronze Soldier with Chechen prisons, Polish meat with Georgian wine. The conclusion suggests itself - united Europe does not want to assume responsibility for creating a new model of relations with Russia. As a result, the European agenda for Russia is regrettably bleak. It includes obstacles to the conclusion of a new agreement on partnership and cooperation (that is, problems of the Polish agrarians and Lithuanian oilmen); energy security; Russia’s WTO entry; and ratification of a treaty to simplify the visa issuing system.

On the international front, the Europeans are planning to discuss Kosovo, Iran, the Middle East and prospects of frozen conflicts in Transdnestr and the Caucasus. The sides hold irreconcilable positions on many of these issues. It is not clear why the EU wants to discuss Russia’s WTO entry if it has already signed a protocol to this effect. Or will the Europeans revoke their signature under pressure of some forces? Discussion of energy security is likely to be idle talk. While building state-run capitalism, Russia is carrying out nationalization and monopolizing its raw materials industry - it has no intention to give foreigners access to its deposits or pipelines.

This situation could change if the Europeans opened their energy market to Russian companies, but they have made it clear more than once that they are not going to let the “uncivilized Russians” take part in the retail. Disputes over issues that do not have quick solutions are leading the sides away from crucial questions. Europe wants to include Russian pipes into the pan-European network and have free access to them, but they have never expressed readiness to make Russia part of the trans-European transportation system, especially to those projects that are aimed at increasing the passenger traffic and encourage the population’s mobility, which is five times slower in Russia than in West Europe.

Uniting Russia and Europe into a single transportation system with integrated routes is the best way of promoting rapprochement and mutually advantageous cooperation. Russia would welcome proposals on cross border cooperation and exchange of experience; joint efforts against drug trafficking and trade in people; training of Russian police and border troops in procedures of respectful repatriation; and re-equipment of border control check-points to fit European standards (particularly if the Europeans promised to simplify or cancel visa procedures). Engaged in debates of one and the same questions and the “destinies of the world,” the Europeans may forget that tranquility in Europe is a big question. Official sources do not clarify whether the ABM issue will be discussed at all.

The Europeans are not masters in their own house if they allow the United States to turn Eastern Europe into an instrument of threatening Russia. Vladimir Putin has already responded to this by talking about a potential moratorium on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. This is a signal for the Europeans. They might think that he has overreacted - but what do they expect from a country that they promised back in 1999 to integrate into their united economic and social space with a common security system?

The upcoming summit is not encouraging. Its agenda is being compiled by East European states that are settling old accounts and blocking dialogue between key regional players. Instead of starting consultations - even if unofficial - on new forms of cooperation with Russia, be it a privileged agreement on partnership, association or common market, the European bureaucrats have concluded that the agreement on partnership and cooperation can be simply extended. Accusing Russia of authoritarian rule, European officials are unable to do much about the situation. It seems that Brussels does not control EU relations with Russia. (en.rian.ru)